For me, art is a spiritual path, a transformational process, a way of being. I define an artist as one who must make art. I have always loved nature and my artwork reflects this love. Plaine aire painting (painting in nature) imbues nature's color, scale, and vast compositional potential in all of my creative pursuits and confirms my aesthetic principles. Photography enables me to study the detail of light on everything it touches. As an artist who receives 90% of her business from healthcare facilities, I have seen that art, with its emphasis on systems of unity, balance, and sublimation, is indispensable to the medical community.
Thirty years ago I used my art to recover from a chronic condition. Ten years ago I went from nearly immobile to walking, reinforcing my body and spirit though self-hypnosis techniques and creative expression with the support of Eastern and Western medicine. This experience has greatly broadened my perception of art and compassion for the ill. The spiritual connection I have with making art is what I intend to pass to each viewer.
Creating a commissioned work of art requires a full comprehension of the site including the elevations, floor plan, color palette and, of course, the site's purpose. This information is indispensable when considering the scale and type of artwork appropriate for each space. An emergency waiting room is very different from a hospital lobby. It is the artist's job to create a piece that complements its environment as an organic part of the site's structure. Sacred geometry, scale, medium, and composition are major factors in this sort of work.
I approach each site as I would approach a sculpture. Each element plays a critical role in defining the work's purpose, which in the case of hospitals, is healing. The various mediums I use—including photo-based painting, mobiles, and polyresin—let me explore different techniques and develop dynamic compositions. I create scale, full-color drawings or three-dimensional maquettes on the computer to communicate my ideas to the client.
Once all of the plans are laid and a medium is chosen, my studio gets to work. Resin is tinted with carefully selected colors that encourage meditation and relaxation. Leaves, shells, pebbles, and stems are collected and then encased in resin. Photographs are remastered, printed to scale and adhered to wood panels. They are then coated with a sweet-smelling encaustic beeswax that inhibits UV light. Once painted, they take on a lush exuberance and energy. The chiffon is sent out for printing and then arrives in the studio to be sewn, stitched, and modified as needed for the suspended hardware. Under the studio's natural light they take the form of cool breezes, moments of clarity, and a day at the park. The pieces are ready for installation only after achieving these qualities of rapt satisfaction
In the waiting room at Mills-Peninsula Women's Center in San Mateo, California, I created a 360-degree “wave,” combining colorful abstract paintings, sculptures of polyresin with imbedded leaves, seeds, and branches and photo-based oil and encaustic wax paintings. The paintings descend the staircase from the main lobby into a smaller, more intimate waiting room where apprehensive patients wait to receive mammograms and gynecological services. The work installed on each wall of the room promotes a feeling of calm cascading motion. I've been told by patients and staff that the installation creates a sense of exhilaration and movement which distracts the patients from their stressful situations.
At St. Vincent's Hospital in Indianapolis, a newly developed area of the facility located in the basement needed to be pleasurable and inviting. The commission was meant to encourage visitors to descend the stairs from the hospital's entry level into the coffee shop and cafeteria. In an effort to deflect the impressions of tombs and burial often associated with subterranean common areas, I created four mobiles entitled “Sacred Walk,” composed of photographed trees printed onto chiffon. First experienced from the entry level, then down the staircase and into the cafeteria, the mobiles mimic a walk through a forest. Once downstairs, the viewer can look up at the mobiles as though looking up through a forest canopy, and enjoy the natural light being transported from the skylights. One of the most satisfying moments in my career was hearing the enthusiasm and praise for the artwork after its installation, as I stood by—a fly on the wall. Yes, I do have an ego.
In addition to being an artist, I am an ecologist. The content of my work is primarily derived from a biophilic perspective. This perspective is founded in a love for living things, a conception of interconnectivity, and a belief that, like the earth, human beings are built for survival. Humankind has been using art for healing since its conception on earth. Native American shamans, medieval clergymen, pagan priests, and Tibetan Buddhists have acknowledged the importance of treating the body as part of a larger cosmic system—the earth, the sky, the ocean, and the mind. Up until the modern era, art was specifically designed to emulate nature and inspire wisdom, knowledge, and self-realization in all who viewed it. All of these attributes motivate the mind and body to utilize its own internal resources, which in turn activate our immune systems.
When presented with biophilic imagery, patients begin to contemplate their own processes of stasis. How has the tree stood for so long? How does it breathe and grow and flourish without any assistance but from the natural cycles of rain and pollination? The ocean and its patterns of ebb and flow, its elaborate ecologies, and defiant buoyancy—we can see ourselves in all of these things. We are all of these things.
I look forward to a time when more people will realize a deeper understanding of the relationship between our bodies and our environment. Art in healthcare facilities is achieving an unprecedented acceptance and medical respect. One day, hospitals will embolden patients with methods in interactive art, a biofeedback component that entails personal training and commitment. The Camozzi Studio is developing methods and tools for artistic health expression based on research about patient responses to art. It is our hope that this work will play an integral role in future healthcare facilities. HD